Employees who pull a sickie to watch sports tournaments such as EURO 2016 may get caught out on social media, warns a top employment lawyer.

Danielle Ayres of Gorvins Solicitors says she has been made increasingly aware of employers who have discovered fake absenteeism during key sporting fixtures thanks to staff members’ activity on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

“Social media is the classic trap for those who call in sick under false pretences. Sports fans might not be able to resist joining discussion groups or offering comment on Twitter. So if bosses already suspect a false claim of absenteeism then social media may provide them with the evidence they need.”

Instead, Danielle suggests employers pre-empt the problem with forward planning around large scale sporting events such as Wimbledon, the Olympics and the remaining weeks of Euro 2016.

“Rather than dealing with the fallout from unexpected absenteeism, employers could save a great deal of money and a huge amount of disruption by taking a pre-emptive strike to accommodate sports-mad staff. This could include sending memos to staff advising of options to take holiday or unpaid leave. In the case of shift workers, this could involve early notification of allowing flexibility surrounding requests to change shifts.”

She added that some bosses may consider offering flexible working, maybe starting and finishing earlier so that staff can be home in time for kick-off.

“That way, no good will is lost since workers will still be able to fulfil their contractual number of hours.”

England’s battle with Wales in Euro 2016 is thought to have cost the economy around £200 million alone.

And with further weeks of football ahead as well as Wimbledon and the Olympics, there is huge scope for that figure to rise.

As for those who reluctantly make it into work, Danielle suggests employers boost low morale and work performance by allowing time for staff to check football streaming services and social media – if the internet is usually blocked. Or even, organising screening times – as was the case in her own office.

Her views are echoed by ACAS who have suggested that employers have agreements about absenteeism in place before the start of key tournaments.

They also stress that bosses should make clear what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of skipping work to watch sporting fixtures.

Added Danielle: “Obviously not all places of work are suited to accommodating staff absence for football matches or for allowing the provision of following a game during the working day. But if employers make the first move in offering flexibility and leniency – as well as getting into the spirit of a big tournament –  it could end up saving their firms a lot of money and inconvenience.”

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